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Spanish police protest in Madrid against ‘gag law’ reform

Thousands of police protested in Madrid on Saturday over plans to reform a controversial security law banning the unauthorised use of police images if it puts them in danger.

A demonstrator holds a placard reading
A demonstrator holds a placard reading "congress, resignation", during a demonstration called by police unions in Madrid, on November 27, 2021, to protest against proposed changes of a controversial security law known as "ley mordaza" (gag law). (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

The rally focused on plans by Spain’s left-wing government to change the citizen security law, known as the “gag law”, passed in 2015 under the previous right-wing administration at the height of the anti-austerity protests.

The reform bill aims to bring the law in line with a Constitutional Court ruling that authorisation to use images of police was “unconstitutional” because it amounted to “prior censorship”.

Waving Spanish flags and union banners, the protesters, accompanied by senior right-wing politicians, marched to the interior ministry in a rally called by Jusapol, an umbrella organisation from which emerged the police and Guardia Civil unions.

They say such reform would remove protection from police and security forces, endanger public security and reduce operational ability to stop violent demonstrations.

READ ALSO: Spain’s gag law slammed in press freedom report

“We say no to this reform. We believe the law must be adapted to current times and must be reformed, but we must never trample the rights of those responsible for security who work with this law every day,” Jusapol president Miguel Ángel Gómez told reporters.

Demonstrators wave flares as they take part in a demonstration called by police unions in Madrid. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

Speaking at the march, opposition leader Pablo Casado, who heads the right-wing Popular Party, said he fully supported the protesters’ demands.

“Every day four police officers are assaulted and this is absolutely intolerable,” said Casado, urging Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez “to listen to the street and to the thousands of police who have risked their lives to defend Spanish democracy and freedom.”

“It is extraordinary that for the first time in our democracy, those who risk their lives to protect us have to demonstrate because they are left unprotected,” he said earlier.

ANALYSIS: “Spain’s freedom of speech repression is no joke”

Other right-wing politicians also joined the march, among them Santiago Abascal, leader of the far-right Vox party and Ines Arrimadas, head of the centre-right Ciudadanos party.

“Basically, what this law does is to remove protection from the police and criminalise them, casting doubt on them and favouring those attacking them,” said Arrimadas.

Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

“We are tired of the fact that in Spain criminals have more protection than the police and those who obey the law.”

Under the current law, the unauthorised use of images of police officers that could endanger their safety is a serious offence, with offenders risking fines of €600 to €10,400.

The reforms also propose changes to the fines, which would be proportional to the offenders’ income, as well as to riot control equipment with possibly the least harmful means to be used. 

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CRIME

Spanish police arrest one of Britain’s most wanted fugitives

Spanish police said Wednesday they had arrested one of Britain's most wanted fugitives, sought for his suspected role in the murder of a teenager.

Spanish police arrest one of Britain's most wanted fugitives

British police believe David Ungi, 30, was involved in the fatal shooting in 2015 in Liverpool of 18-year-old Vinny Waddington while he was riding a motorcycle.

Ungi, who is also wanted in connection with heroin trafficking, left Britain less than 24 hours after Waddington was killed, according to British authorities.

Two other men were convicted in 2016 of the 18-year-old’s murder.

Spanish police said in a statement Ungi was arrested along with three other British men in the town of Coin near the southern resort of Marbella on May 5 as they entered a gym at a shopping centre.

Officers seized a firearm from a rucksack being carried by one of the men, Spain’s National Police said in a statement.

A police search of Ungi’s residence in Coin turned up a machinegun and two other guns as well as “abundant ammunition”, 15 kilos (33 pounds) of cocaine and 19 kilos of hashish, the statement added.

Spanish police said the operation was carried out in cooperation with Britain’s National Crime Agency, which had put Ungi on its most wanted list.

The Spanish coast has long a popular bolthole for British criminals fleeing the law because they can blend easily into thriving expatriate communities.

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